ST. JOHN — A show house in the sprawling Gates of St. John subdivision just might be the smartest home in all of Northwest Indiana.
The brick, two-story home is tricked out with some of the most state-of-the-art smart home technology, including a "morning" button that turns on the lights throughout the house after the homeowner wakes up and can even get the coffee percolating.
Merrillville-based "smart home experts" Cloudbusters installed tens of thousands of dollars of home security and home automation equipment in the house built by Homes by Dutch Mill, so potential homebuyers can get a better sense of what's possible today.
"With planning and the budget, there's really nothing we can't do," said Cloudbusters Vice President Stephen Muenstermann.
A growing number of companies will install smart home automation in Northwest Indiana and the South Suburbs. They include Omni Entertainment Systems, in Valparaiso; Tru Home Protection; and GTV Audio, in Dolton.
A study by Juniper Research found the smart home market should grow to $71 billion by 2018, up from $25 billion in 2012.
Smart home technology can let parents know exactly when their kids return from school, automatically adjusts the thermostat to the preferred temperature of the person who's home, and lets people use their smartphone as a remote control.
Cloudbusters Project Manager Mike Lowe said more and more homebuyers are looking at smart automation as they become more aware of what's available, thanks in part to a national television advertising campaign by Nest Learning Thermostat.
Cloudbusters had 333 percent growth last month, and average growth of 115 percent over the last three months, according to the company. Muenstermann credits such rapid growth to networking and word of mouth.
"A lot of previous customers or friends or businesses have been referring us," he said.
Much of the growth has been taking place in new homes under construction in St. John, Crown Point, Valparaiso, and, to a lesser extent, Schererville. About 75 percent of the of the market is new construction, where it's easier to install wiring without having to tear up existing walls.
Cloudbusters works with builders like Dyer-based Homes by Dutch Mill and is trying to establish more contacts, Muenstermann said. Cloudbusters has highlighted the latest in smart home technology at the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana's Parade of Homes.
People looking to build a home can contact the company directly to ask about options, which can range from a basic security system that would run in the ballpark of $2,000 to far more sophisticated automation that can be customized to the homeowner's needs and preferences. Houses can be set up so the homeowner can unlock the front door with their phone, watch security footage on their phone, or get a text alert if the thermostat drops too low, which might indicate a problem with the furnace.
Window shades can be programmed to open when sunlight hits them. Homeowners can use their phones to play music in different rooms, adjust the temperature from the couch, or turn the lights on before they get back so they're not walking into a dark house. A mood button in the bedroom dims the lights, puts on pre-selected music and ignites the fireplace.
There's even a "mockupancy" feature that's far more advanced than just leaving the lights on while you're away to deter burglars. It instead turns lights on and off in different rooms according to the normal pattern the homeowners have when they're there.
Such an option is more desirable at a time when people can go on your Facebook page and see you're on vacation.